Another story about housing in the local papers; this time from the West Sussex County Times and relating to Horsham district.Â One thing that everyone agrees on is that it is difficult for youngsters ((which from my perspective now means anyone under thirty unfortunately)) to leave home without leaving the area and difficult for anyone on a low wage but not qualifying for high priority on council housing registers to find anywhere in the area – meaning a demand for affordable or social housing.Â The Labour party locally has this as a central plank of its policies, and even the district council recognises it by having an annual target for affordable houses – which is never anywhere near being met.
Given that there is such an overwhelming need for such housing it is amazing that the strategic planning policies do notÂ do a lot more to encourage it.Â The quotas for affordable housing are set so that there are enormous loopholes which developers exploit fully.Â Â Despite this need for affordable housing, the language used to describe any plans is almost entirely negative.
Plans to build more houses – without which there can be no affordable housing – are described as “the shadow of government housing targets” and David Jenkins, the cabinet member for strategic housing said “I do not want to burden Horsham district with more houses than we require.”Â So that is the Tory view of the thing hundreds of families most need: a burden.
It would be less of a burden if more effort was made to identify brownfield sites instead of greenfield, and if the proportion of affordable and social housing was higher because it tends to take up less space.Â Remember that brownfield does not mean abandoned factories: it just means previously developed.Â So a single small bungalow with a large garden can be redeveloped to include a dozen units.Â Two or three in a row can provide plenty of additional housing without encroaching on any countryside at all.
Of course the quote fromÂ Mr Jenkins is just pure rhetoric as it is totally unqualified.Â Â For it to really mean something he should state what is the number of houses we do require; instead he just leaves hanging the implication that any number is too high.Â Is it not possible for Horsham district council to just say what is needed?
That can be followed up by making it a requirement that 50% of all developments are affordable.Â The current rules just offer an incentive for developers to be inefficient in their use of space and build blocks of 14 flats on a plot that would easily take 18 just to avoid any social obligation.Â Multiply that by the number of developments and that comes to a lot of wasted space.Â Â Had these incentives for inefficient development not been in place there might not be any need to go looking for extra locations in the first place.